As I sit here in a rather chilly part of Northumberland where the clouds have zero contours and not a smidgen of colour, I find myself wishing I was somewhere else. Somewhere with weather! REAL weather! Huge crashing storms, or great big fluffy clouds with sun beams poking through with reckless abandon, rain, hail, snow! Anything! Just give me some weather dammit! As a general rule, us ‘Togs like a bit of weather, especially in landscape shots as it helps to set a scene and give some character and depth to an image. Flat skies and boringly grey days are generally set aside for either working on the mountain of post-processing that’s crying out to be done, or basically any kind of photography that doesn’t require a glorious outdoor setting.
Or does it?
Photographers want a beautiful location, colours, contours, something to create and fall in love with. Right?
I think back on my trip to Venice a couple of months ago, and remember just how poor the weather was; flat sky, grey, dull, lifeless. “Increase the ISO, weather” as an old Photographer friend of mine likes to call it.
I think back and remember sailing along the Grand Canal and being slightly disappointed at the lack of light and colour in what is otherwise a gloriously beautiful city, and began to explain to my girlfriend that I could still do a lot of other stuff.
“Oh yes, we could do more shopping and actually lie in bed a bit longer in the mornings!” she said looking excited.
The excitement soon began to drain when I explained I meant other Photography stuff. Ah, the look of a Photographers partner when you crush their hopes!
So street Photography was the plan going forward. Lots of interesting people doing lots of interesting things. So many moments to capture, so many stories to tell, so many men trying to sell you plastic flowers and selfie-sticks, so many times telling said men that you’re going to shove their selfie stick somewhere unpleasant…….
…..and then we came to the Punta della Dogana and looked out onto the Canal Giudecca. My plans changed in a heartbeat.
The Grand Canal is a sight that everyone should see at least once in their life. Everyone has heard about it and probably seen at least once in picture form; a lone Gondola with the setting sun in the background and red and white twirly poles…you know what I mean. It truly is a fantastic place and certainly lives up to the hype (although it’s doubtful you’ll actually see a lone Gondola as the waterway is jam-packed morning, noon and night). But nobody ever hears about Canal Giudecca. The Grand Canal is the loud, colourful, in your face side of Venice. Unspeakably beautiful, warm and forever friendly. Canal Giudecca is the calm, thoughtful, relaxing side, beautiful in a stark and indifferent sense. Yin and Yang. It’s the even larger (wider anyway) canal than the Grand one, separating Giudecca district and all of it’s wonders from the Dorsoduro district. Standing at the edge of the canal I realised I just had to get a shot of the canal and the buildings on the other side, no matter the weather. No, because of the weather. The Grand Canal just didn’t look right without the sun shining down, reflecting off the rippling water, casting shadows against the sinking buildings and ebbing boats moored against the canal edge. It wouldn’t have suited it.
But it suited Canal Giudecca to a tee. The flat grey sky, the slow ebb of the tide and the magnificent architecture of Il Redentore seemed to come together and form the perfectly grey, and yet perfectly beautiful image that shouldn’t have been. Not everyone will agree with me. To some, the image will look dull; a mid-tone catastrophe, an affront to colour and contour. It needs more this, and more that……
I love it.
And that’s the important thing, because after all, Photographers take images that they like, images that mean something to them. Images that will resign your other half to shopping on their own.
Give me a beautiful location, give me grey, give me flat, and you give me something that I can create and fall in love with.
There’s another reason I love this image so much. It reminds me that although you can make something beautiful out of grey, you need some colour in your life.
That colour came in the form of my Tripod carrying, solo shopping Girlfriend, who, later on that night on the Rialto bridge, said the word that poured the colour back into me…